BARRE — It was a case of rock and roll at the Vermont Granite Museum’s annual granite festival on Saturday.
The rock was apparent in all that the granite industry does in the region and included the addition of a dry-stone wall building class this year. The roll came with children riding superior pedal cars that were a part of the museum’s expanding outdoor program to attract families to events during its annual season.
There was plenty to do all day at the “Rock Solid” granite festival, both inside and out. Inside the classic, cathedral-like Jones Brothers granite shed, numerous displays relived the history and grandeur of the granite industry.
There were numerous hands-on exhibits for kids that included the chance to etch a small granite plaque, and the “Build It! Lab,” an exhibition on loan from the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury that encouraged children to construct things with a range of different materials. Children were also entertained with games and live entertainment from Chris R. and his Flying Guitar and a two-hour rockabilly set from The Starline Rhythm Boys.
This year, there was also a live demo by Barre blacksmith worker Jim Covino, with his forge glowing brightly in the museum as he heated and hammered small metal objects to give to visitors.
Scott McLaughlin, executive director of the museum, noted that the festival has been held for the past two decades to showcase the work of the granite industry in the region and also explore what the museum has accomplished in the past year.
“We have accomplished quite a bit this year in terms of revising exhibit content, putting in new exhibit materials and we’ve also got the recurring event of The Paletteers of Vermont art show. The Paletteers have a direct connection with the granite industry. It was founded by members of the granite industry, who were designers and spent quite a few years with the dream of becoming professional artists,” he added.
McLaughlin said it is hoped The Paletteers could also be involved in plans to paint the image of Hercules, a coal-steam locomotive, on the outside of the museum building.
“The old locomotive was used for the better part of half a century, carrying rocks and then tourists,” McLaughlin said. “That locomotive went through this building many, many times delivering granite.
“We want to paint a mural of it on the outside of the building, right in the location the train used to travel through, making it look like its driving through the building again,” he added.
McLaughlin said it also hoped to bring Hercules, currently up at Rock of Ages, down to the museum to join diesel Locomotive No. 14 that served on the Barre-Chelsea Railroad.
“It would be great to have both the diesel locomotive and the old steam-coal locomotive right here on the property,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said a roundtable offered in-depth discussion about the the history and culture of the granite industry at Saturday’s granite festival.
Prudy Burnes, of Barre, an etcher in the granite industry for the past 27 years, led the roundtable discussion. Burnes said her father and both grandfathers all worked in the granite industry.
“I think it was a really interesting discussion because I think we had almost every single ethnic group that had originally come to Barre, for whatever reason – political, religious – to work in the granite industry and to ply their trade,” Burnes said. “Most of them never wanted to go back to their country, most of them became very American, raised families, were very successful in terms of what they accomplished, and were very proud of themselves and their heritage and what they did for work.
“They were blue-collar all the way but there was a real soul to them,” she added.
McLaughlin said winter projects at the granite museum will include more fundraising, attracting new members, revising exhibit content, dealing with facility issues and preparing for next year’s events.
The granite museum’s mission also includes trying to attract additional events to raise funds. Next week, there will be the annual Fur Fest fundraiser for the Central Vermont Humane Society, on Saturday, from 5 to 8 p.m. The granite museum also has a booking for a bar mitzvah in May.
Outside, McLaughlin said work continues on completing a three-quarter mile path to allow people to walk the property.
New elements of property development planned outside will include a stone entryway, cedar forest, a sculpture walk, large-scale sculpture park and a labyrinth.
A sculpture symposium planned for 2021 would include a workshop to create sculptures that would both be sold to raise funds for the museum but also used for sculpture walk at the museum.
On Saturday, there was also a class by The Stone Trust, of Dummerston, to learn how to build with dry-laid stone.
“We’ve been working with them to develop a partnership to develop classes here, and for the last two years, they’ve been offering introductory classes,” McLaughlin said. “It will be their job to tear the wall apart and learn how it was constructed.”
The museum is also planning expanding courses in clay, plaster and stone for adults and children, and eventually hopes to have undergraduate and graduate students working with professional sculptors in Barre.
McLaughlin said another project will be rebuilding the temporary back wall of the granite museum with the help of students from the Barre Technical Center and Champlain College who will work on designs for the wall.
The temporary wall fills a gap between the museum and a former attached shed that burned down in the late 1980s and the project would require a capital campaign to raise the $100,000 needed to complete the work.
McLaughlin said it had been a good year for the museum with events and rentals up on previous years, and attendance was also good, in part because of the many visitors who came to watch Chris Miller carve the new Ceres statue that sits atop the golden dome of the State House.
“Word is spreading how family-friendly the museum is in terms of exhibit content and there are also opportunities for adults to explore the granite heritage we have in the state of Vermont,” McLaughlin said.
The museum is also planning a Sculpture Quest contest in Barre through the end of the season on Oct. 26.
“The quest is to get out there and explore those sculptures, and from each of those sculptures, take away a word or two or a phrase and write that down,” McLaughlin said. “At the conclusion of your walk from the north end to the south end of Barre City, we ask that you try to collect your thoughts to create a short essay about what you’ve learned.”
McLaughlin said the winning submission would receive a family season pass to the museum next year, and it is hoped to post it and other entries on the museum website.
To watch and listen to the roundtable discussion at the granite festival, visit www.cvtv723.org
To learn more about the Vermont Granite Museum, visit www.vtgranitemuseum.org